Glossary Intro and Glossary Annexes
A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Harry J Hobbs Working With Tools leisure League of America 1935
I
FUN IN A WORKSHOP

Tucked away in a closet of one of the swankiest of New York's

apartment hotels there happens to be a woodworker's bench, a

power lathe and an amazing assortment of hand tools ready, at a

moment's notice, to make the sawdust fly!

Any night between the hours of eight and eleven o'clock

apartment neighbors above, below and adjoining the workshop

apartment are likely to hold up their game of bridge to identify

the blows of a hammer or the groan of a saw.

If you were to trace down this nightly clamor to discover what and

who is behind it you would find yourself standing in a richly

furnished living room gazing into a small adjoining room that was

meant for a closet but that is at present filled to capacity with a

workbench, a motorized lathe, shelves laden with scrap lumber

and in the center of the shop a man, middle-aged, the vice

president of a staggeringly large corporation during the day, but

at this moment a typical home craftsman working in his shirt

sleeves over the bench.

This individual, whose name I am not privileged to disclose,

became a craftsman only a few years ago when one of his young

sons teased him into building a model sailboat. For that job he

had to acquire a few tools, and by the time he had finished he

had awakened an intense desire to build something else,

anything else just to be building. That is about the way most

craftsmen are made. They start out to make some special project

and end up with a workshop and a barrel of fun.

If an apartment house closet measuring less than six feet wide

by six feet deep can accommodate all of the essential
tools and equipment necessary to an amateur craftsman's

workshop there is little truth to the objection, "But I haven't the

space required by a workshop." As a matter of fact it is possible

to establish a workshop in a limited way even though your only

workbench is the kitchen table. Space certainly is a valuable

asset to any craftsman's work, but it is not a requisite.
This clothes' closet workshop is neither the smallest nor the

strangest of my acquaintance. I have seen home workshops

surviving, even flourishing, in a chest of drawers. One shop in

particular housed all of its tools in the two lower drawers of a

colonial chest. The tools consisted mainly of a set of hand carving

chisels, a plane, hand saw, wooden mallet, two files, some

sandpaper and glue, and a set of four small "C" clamps. The only

workbench accessible to the owner of the tools was the kitchen

table. Any evening when the creative spirit urged him to ply chisel

to wood he simply transported the two chest drawers to the

kitchen.

The smallest shop, or rather I should say the smallest tool

equipment, to have achieved the greatest reward to my

knowledge consists of a pair of embroidery scissors borrowed from

the family sewing box. Supplementing this ingenious tool, were a

razor blade with a handle attached, and a file. In justice to those

earnest craftsmen who have spent thousands, (that's right,

thousands) of dollars on elaborate workshop tools of every

description, we can hardly call the scissors-razor blade-file

triumvirate a workshop. It is merely tool equipment. Yet the

fingers behind these instruments fabricated a model ship of such

expert workmanship that the model won first place in a national

model-building contest in which craftsman of all ages competed.

The award for this piece of work came in the form of a free cruise

for himself and wife aboard one of the finest liners afloat.
Swinging to the other extreme we find home workshops
that look like a merger between a carpenter shop and a machine

shop. In more than one backyard we can find buildings erected

solely for the use of a hobby workshop. Maxfield Parrish, the well

-known painter, has established a workshop on the lower floor of

a two-story structure. The upper floor is used as his studio. When

the light or the mood is
not right for painting, he comes downstairs to try his hand at the

lathe.

But workshops of these enormous proportions are not for the

beginner to envy. They are something we are curious to see but

will likely never have the desire to own nor the luxury to afford.

Our workshop may very sensibly be restricted to only those tools

for which we have a definite and constant use. It is a much better

display of wisdom and talents to allow your resourcefulness to

take the place of highly specialized tools. And unless you want to

spend a bushel of money think twice before you buy a new piece

of equipment. Be certain that you have a genuine need for it and

that no tool you have already purchased can be manuevered to

pinch-hit for the new one.

Strange as it may seem, even the gay nineties knew the benefits

of a workshop. Among the home craftsmen of that era was none

other than the eminent Oliver Wendell Holmes, doctor and poet.

To his young friend Edward Bok (author of The Americanization of

Edward Bok) he said: "Do you know that I am a full-fledged

carpenter? No? Well, I am. You know I am a doctor," he

explained, "and this shop is my medicine. I believe that every

man must have a hobby that is as different from his regular work

as it is possible to be. It is not good for a man to work all the

time at one thing. We doctors call it a safety-valve, and it is. I

would much rather you would forget all that
I have written than that you should forget what I tell you about a

safety-valve."

Since the time of Oliver Wendell Holmes, craftsmanship
Wherever you set up your workshop you will have to begin by

cleaning house. Clear everything out of the allotted space and, if

possible, whitewash the walls and ceiling. While it will not always

be practical to cover the ceiling, particularly if the shop is in a

basement having an intricately beamed ceiling, the walls can

ordinarily be covered without much difficulty. The advantage

gained in added candle power in your electric lighting system is

several times worth the trouble. Whitewash is purchasable in

powder form at about forty cents a bag at hardware stores. It

requires only mixing with water and adding a little rock salt. It

should be applied freely with a wide brush.

Since most of your time in a home workshop will be spent after

dark, you need good light. Don't try to get by with a 50-watt light

bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling without a reflector.

You should have a 12o-watt bulb and a reflector, costing as little

as twenty-five cents, so arranged that the unit can be moved

easily to throw its light directly on any part of the workbench.

Equipped with a rubber cable that can be doubled and taped to

form a loop, the light can be suspended on a length of wire

strung across the workshop ceiling and can then be moved along

the wire to any desired spot. If the looped section of cable is

wound with electrician's tape and checked occasionally, the

electric wire need never become bare from excessive use.

It is likely that the workshop floor, also, will require some

preparation. If the floor is concrete it can be treated in several

different ways, the easiest of which is fortunately the cheapest.

After washing it clean with soap and water, spread on a solution

of silicate of soda ("water glass" such as the housewife uses for

preserving eggs) and when dry cover the entire floor with liquid

floor wax. Occasionally thereafter shake powdered floor wax over

the sections subjected to heaviest wear. This surface will prevent

cement dust from rising. Two coats of a special paint prepared for
cement will do just as well, but the cost is much higher. Likewise,

linoleum could be laid over the floor if a felt lining and a mastic

cement are used, but linoleum is even a
greater luxury than paint.

Before any coating is applied to a concrete floor, all cracks should

be filled with a mixture of one part cement to three parts of sand

with a small amount of lime added— about one-tenth as much

lime as cement.

If the floor of the workshop is made of wood, again paint or

linoleum could be used, but the more practical treatment consists

of nothing more than a thick coat of liquid floor wax which is

afterwards built up with powdered wax. This surface keeps down

the dust, can be cleaned easily and will
prove to be long-wearing.

has exerted a contagious influence upon celebrities. With

headliners from the leading professions stealing away from the

limelight to spend a few hours in a workshop, you will never want

for better company. A partial roll call would include such names

as John Barrymore, Walter Huston, Tony Wons, Seth Parker,

Glenn "Pop" Warner and Vincent
Astor.
Deems Taylor, a foremost American composer—The King's

Henchman, Peter Ibbetsen, etc.—is one of the most avid of

craftsmen. In defense of his shop, if it needs defense, he says,

"Most of us are so clever at one or two things that we have let

ourselves be pretty helpless at everything else. If you can cook a

meal, sew on a button, and use a saw and hammer, you can face

almost any situation. If you can't do these things, you may be a

railroad president, but you are not a completely self-reliant

human being."

II
MAKING ROOM FOR THE WORKSHOP

If the basement can accommodate the new workshop, look no

further, but select as dry a corner as possible, away from the

laundry tubs, to prevent your lumber from warping and your tools

from rusting. And don't move in next door to the furnace. Too

much heat is bad for you and worse for the lumber. Plan the

location now for the shop you hope to have some day. Later on

you may want to partition the space by erecting studs between

the floor and the ceiling beams to serve as a framework for

wallboard. Then you will have the luxury of added wall space for

hanging tool cabinets and you can lock the workshop.

The attic is a good second choice. Although it has an advantage

in being drier than the basement, ordinarily some special

provision will have to be made for heat in the winter. Then, too,

there's some objection to carrying a ten-foot plank through the

house and up the stairs to your shop, but there is an easy way

around this objection—simply make it a practice to cut unwieldy

lumber into shorter lengths in the garage before transporting the

stock to the attic. When the garage itself is sufficiently large for

workbench and tool cabinets it can be converted into as practical

a home workshop as basement or attic.

One craftsman of my acquaintance has converted an old stable

into a workshop and installed a small stove for winter comfort. In

the summer time he erects a small bench on a pair of saw horses

outside the shop under a spreading chestnut. Another craftsman

of curiously inventive mind recently confided in me that he plans

to buy a discarded streetcar for $25.00 and have it moved for

$25.00 additional to his back yard. This old relic is to become his

workshop.

Wherever you set up your workshop you will have to begin by

cleaning house. Clear everything out of the allotted space and, if

possible, whitewash the walls and ceiling. While it will not always

be practical to cover the ceiling, particularly if the shop is in a

basement having an intricately beamed ceiling, the walls can

ordinarily be covered without much difficulty. The advantage

gained in added candle power in your electric lighting system is

several times worth the trouble. Whitewash is purchasable in

powder form at about forty cents a bag at hardware stores. It

requires only mixing with water and adding a little rock salt. It

should be applied freely with a wide brush.

Since most of your time in a home workshop will be spent after

dark, you need good light. Don't try to get by with a 50-watt light

bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling without a reflector.

You should have a 12o-watt bulb and a reflector, costing as little

as twenty-five cents, so arranged that the unit can be moved

easily to throw its light directly on any part of the workbench.

Equipped with a rubber cable that can be doubled and taped to

form a loop, the light can be suspended on a length of wire

strung across the workshop ceiling and can then be moved along

the wire to any desired spot. If the looped section of cable is

wound with electrician's tape and checked occasionally, the

electric wire need never become bare from excessive use.

It is likely that the workshop floor, also, will require some

preparation. If the floor is concrete it can be treated in several

different ways, the easiest of which is fortunately the cheapest.

After washing it clean with soap and water, spread on a solution

of silicate of soda ("water glass" such as the housewife uses for

preserving eggs) and when dry cover the entire floor with liquid

floor wax. Occasionally thereafter shake powdered floor wax over

the sections subjected to heaviest wear. This surface will prevent

cement dust from rising. Two coats of a special paint prepared for
cement will do just as well, but the cost is much higher. Likewise,

linoleum could be laid over the floor if a felt lining and a mastic

cement are used, but linoleum is even a
greater luxury than paint.

Before any coating is applied to a concrete floor, all cracks should

be filled with a mixture of one part cement to three parts of sand

with a small amount of lime added—about one-tenth as much

lime as cement.

If the floor of the workshop is made of wood, again paint or

linoleum could be used, but the more practical treatment consists

of nothing more than a thick coat of liquid floor wax which is

afterwards built up with powdered wax. This surface keeps down

the dust, can be cleaned easily and will
prove to be long-wearing.